We had a guy at work who lost his daughter this week. I don't work with this guy that much, but from time to time, I had to get something from him, or he had to get something from me. We worked with each other most during a period of DSL testing where he gave me the modems, and I gave him the results. We'd meet at some obscure meeting once in a while. He has a very odd last name, which sounds like a character from a cheesy 1950s horror film. Let's make up a similar name, to keep him respectfully anonymous: Arthur Dragonsnake. Like some character in a movie maybe Ed Wood would have directed. But other than that, he is a nice fellow, a good coworker, and I can't say a bad word about him.
So yesterday, I get this e-mail that his daughter had passed away. I didn't even know he had kids. This was apparently his first child, and I found out that she was born prematurely, and only lived for about two and a half months. I felt really bad for him. No one deserves that. But I doubted I'd see him for months, so I didn't think much of it other than a disconnected twang of sadness.
I almost didn't go to work this morning, because the local roads are still so bad, but then a guy at work with a 4WD Jeep said he'd come pick me up. So I went to work late, which was good, because something bad had happened that might have cascaded into a huge system failure had it gone unnoticed for much longer. Then I got a wireless card for my laptop, so I was researching that when my ride said, "We're going to Arthur's daughter's memorial."
I had come to work in jeans, and my "I'm blogging this" tee-shirt. "Uh... I am not dressed for--"
"Neither am I, but we're leaving at 3:30. Just keep your coat on, he'll just be glad we're there." This from a guy who absolutely hates Arthur. I don't know why he never liked Arthur, but he doesn't like a lot of people in my office, so that's just his bag. At least he respected Arthur enough to grieve for his loss, too.
So at 3:30, I went to a United Methodist Church, and met Arthur and his grieving wife, who had a name, and I am so sorry for thinking this, like a bad cowgirl from the 50s who had a man's name. Let's call her Houston. She was understandably on the verge of tears, but my brain was already going, "Arthur and Houston Dragonsnake... gads, what did they name their daughter?" It was a contradictory, perfectly normal and bland name, like Jane. Jane Dragonsnake. Now, no one can help what surname they are born with or married to, but I really had to keep from laughing at the morbid humor of this situation. Jesus, man, I had to keep it together!
The memorial, for the most part, was very touching. I say for the most part, because it had a dark religious undertone. The words chosen by the clergy had hints of "God or else" in them, and we all had to sing a hymn called, and I swear I am not making this up, "I am the Bread of Life." Now, I realize that's something Jesus has been quoted as saying, but the hymn was very disturbing, especially for a memorial to a dead child. This phrase literally made me stop in mid-song, "Unless you eat of the flesh of the son of man / And drink of His blood, and drink of His blood, you cannot have life within you..." Holy crap! My stomach revulsed at this line, like I had been asked to quote some ancient curse to allow my soul to become part of a vampire cult. What the hell? I mouthed the rest of the words, and did NOT say "Amen" after anything after that. It was too disturbing for me. Then there came the famous Psalm 23, "The Lord is my Shepherd," one. I am okay with this, although in the back of my head there's a voice that goes, "You KNOW what shepherds keep sheep for, don't you? Meat, wool, milk, and... when they get lonely..." But then the preacher went on and on with the sheep comparison thing, and part of me wanted to shout out, "Look out, his Lordship only keeps us because he sustains from our meat and skin! He is merely a wolf with a rod and staff!" But I didn't. I just closed my eyes, and tried to think of something technical. But most of the service was from the grandparents, with touching and loving testimony, and while it was sad, all of them had really good things to say in the face of their personal tragedy.
Afterwards, there was food. I hadn't eaten all day, but all they had were cakes, cookies, pies, and a small platter of deli meat. Because of the touching, heart wrenching, testimony of the grandparents, I don't think many people felt like eating. But I had to, or otherwise, I felt I would fall down and pass out. While the food was tasteless and generic, that wasn't the point. They had a lovely memorial table towards their daughter, with pictures of her in the Intensive care unit, and prints of her teeny, teeny hands and feet in clay. The step-grandfather had made this great speech that "celebrated the short life she had," and made a comment that he wasn't going to "girly girl" her when she got older, but teacher her football and motorcycles. Among the memorial was a small football jersey with Jane's name on it. That was a nice touch.
A LOT of people from work were there. Which just punctuated the end of a strange sentence of an experience, because here we were, in a room full of people, all hobnobbing, schmoozing, and talking about dialers, servers, and company goals. At a memorial service.
It was so... weird. Being at a memorial service for someone's daughter I barely knew. Who all had really odd names. That I only had two hours notice I was going to before I was there. In a church that made me uncomfortable. Arthur was very grateful I had come, and we shook hands a lot. So it was a good thing I went, but I felt really bad that I hadn't prepared or been "better in tune" with the situation. To add to this, it brought back uncomfortable memories of Brenda's death a year ago, the fact that my son almost died when he was born, and my own mother's funeral. Oh, and for reasons I won't go into now, I have always felt VERY uncomfortable in churches.
Well, anyway, here's to you, Jane Dragonsnake. Your life was short and sweet, and I hope your next life is longer, but you have the same kind relatives that I met today.
This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000370.html